If you love wine and Georgia hasn’t made your travel bucket list yet, all I can say is – you messed up. Thankfully, it’s never too late to change that. Because Georgian wine is – and has been – having a moment. In 2021 alone, Georgia exported 107 million bottles of wine to 62 countries worldwide.
About 70% of Georgia’s grapes come from one region in particular. An area where about 200 grape varietals, including Rkatsiteli, Kakhetian Mtsvane, Khikhvi, Kisi, and Saperavi, can be found and where wine-making traditions date back 8,000 years.
But it isn’t just wine that draws people to Kakheti. Kakheti’s unique natural landscape, ancient fortresses and towers, alpine lakes, and hidden waterfalls add to the appeal. Toss in some world-class hotels, a classical music festival that isn’t to be missed, and some of the friendliest locals you’ll find anywhere, and you’ve got yourself a rich, beautiful place to spend a few days in Georgia.
Kakheti is one of those places that leaves a mark on you. Or at least a hangover.
Almost two hours by car from Tbilisi, over the sometimes treacherous Gombori pass, or the long way around with a detour through Sighnaghi, you find yourself in the heart of Georgian wine country. Here’s what to know about Kakheti, Georgia’s famous wine region, before you go.
Where to Stay in Kakheti
While wine is the main attraction in Kakheti, these three hotels are standouts in the region.
Tsinandali Estate isn’t just a hotel. It’s an experience. And stepping into Prince Alexander Chavchavadze’s personal wine cellar is proof of that. A cellar that’s home to more than 15,000 bottles of wine dating back to 1814.
During a stay at the hotel, be sure to also visit the Tsinandali Palace Museum of Prince Alexander Chavchavadze and see how the family lived before learning even more about how they started making wine of their own more than 230 years ago. The Estate is full of history and allure that’s unmatchable to any other experience in Georgia.
Tip: The Tsinandali Festival, held each September, is one of the best classical music festivals globally and isn’t to be missed.
One of the newest hotels to open in Telavi, Communal Hotel is a 12-room boutique-style hotel set in the heart of Telavi, Kakheti’s capital city.
With a limited number of rooms, each with its own unique touch – from claw-footed bathtubs to balcony’s overlooking the cobblestone street below – the vibe at Communal is as wine, dine, and unwind as it gets. In the summer months, the hotel’s pool is a great place to escape the heat, while the restaurant’s Georgian breakfast spread is the best you’ll find this side of the Alazani.
Tip: You won’t find a better breakfast than the one served in the hotel’s restaurant, Doli.
From the wine to the food and the brews, few places in Sighnaghi deliver an experience like the one at Lost Ridge Inn. With every detail carefully curated and every meal even more thoughtful than the last, there’s always something to see, do, and eat during a visit.
Take a horse ride through the surrounding hills or spend time with the brewmaster before exploring the surrounding vineyards and tasting rooms, including the ones below.
Tip: Even though this is wine region, the Inn’s micro-brewed beers are one of the highlights of staying here. Book the Archeological Suite for an even more special experience.
The Best Wine Tastings in Kakheti
While you can’t go wrong with any wine tasting in Kakheti, these are the ones that aren’t to be missed. Whether you’re looking for a family-run experience or to learn more about the best natural wines in the country, these places have it all covered.
Overlooking the vineyard and with the Greater Caucasus Mountains looming in the distance, the Crazy Pomegranate Vineyard and Tasting Room is one of the top experiences for anyone interested in learning more about natural winemaking. Ask questions about Georgia’s unique qvevri vessels (the traditional clay pots Georgians have been making wine in for centuries) and pair the experience with foraged and local ingredient-highlighted dishes that will have you wanting to move to Georgia in no time.
Tip: If you’re traveling in a small group and unable to meet the 10-person minimum at Crazy Pomegranate, visit Pheasant’s Tears Restaurant in Sighnaghi instead.
It isn’t just the wine at Togonidze’s that will have your jaw on the floor. The Asian-Georgian fusion of foods, plus the art everywhere you look, will leave you delighted and curious for more. And that’s what brings people back to Togonidze’s time and time again – there’s also something new to taste and see.
Spend the afternoon with the husband and wife duo who run the wine tastings, and finish your night by stopping into Marleta’s Farm, where you can continue drinking Gia Togonidze’s wine, but this time paired with European-style cheeses.
Tip: Gia Togonidze is fluent in German in addition to Georgian. Hire an English-speaking translator (and driver) to get the full experience.
There are certain places where you walk in and immediately feel like family. This is one of them. Warm, welcoming, and with peak Georgian hospitality, sip on wine in the marani (wine cellar) garden and lend a hand to the ladies in the open kitchen. Dine over a traditional Blue Supra tablecloth and learn not just about wine – but this region’s unique history from the people whose families have called this region home for generations.
Tip: History lovers will particularly enjoy this 20th century Kakheti style chateau museum.
Bonus: Walk Off Your Hangover with a Local Nature Activist
Wine, dine, and rewind. But not without a little hike in nature somewhere in between. Don’t worry – there’s still some homemade wine waiting for you at the end of this walk.
Take a Nature Walk with NaturHistorium Founder Kakhaber Sukhitashvili
Kakhaber Sukhitashvili is on a mission to make ecological-based tourism more accessible and sustainable for the communities in the region that could benefit from it the most by helping them develop and understand the importance of the areas they call home.
Choose from several walking itineraries and spend the morning exploring ancient ruins and wineries that date back hundreds – if not thousands – of years. There may even be some homemade wine, locally sourced honey, and fresh puri (bread) waiting for you at the end of the hike.
Tip: Sukhitashvili works with local “ambassadors” in every village and area he works in. Bring a small gift to exchange with this local ambassador who will surely load you up with homemade wine and honey (or other small goodies) upon your departure.